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The 20 Best Neo-Noir Movies of the Past 5 Years

26 July 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Zane Castillo

Film noir was a staple of cinema from the 1940s to the late 50’s. Many of these films were cheesy or overly melodramatic, but also many gems were made that are considered some of the best films ever made. As the years waned on, film noir evolved into neo-noir with films that were more edgy and violently graphic.

Recently, the neo-noir genre has seen its share of some of the most interesting and captivating films to grace the silver screen. Here are the 20 best neo-noir movies released in the past five years.

 

20. Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin is a revenge thriller which follows Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) a drifter who learns that the man who killed his parents is being released from jail. Dwight returns to his hometown and during a confrontation with Wade, Dwight stabs him. He steals Wade’s limousine and discovers that Wade’s younger brother is in the back but he lets him go.

Dwight flees to his sister’s house and tells her what he did. Things start to heat up as the Clelands set out to kill Dwight for Wade’s murder. The violence is the film is pushed to the limit as Dwight struggles to stay alive.

The fruitless nature of revenge is shown throughout the movie to be a never-ending cycle of violence that won’t leave anyone satisfied. Life becomes an uneasy journey of looking over your shoulder and dodging every suspicious person.

The graphic ending of the film shows the true result of vengeance as the crescendo of violence comes to a bleak finality. Blue Ruin is a movie that holds you in complete suspense as you watch the ferocity of the characters as they try to seek closure for their wrongs.

 

19. Dead Man Down (2013)

Colin Farrell has made a career out of playing versatile characters that are placed in dire situations. In Dead Man Down, Farrell stars as Victor, a man who is out for revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter. Victor is able to infiltrate the organized crime realm run by boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard), who killed his family.

Victor vows to exact his revenge on Alphonse, but his plans are uprooted when Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) approaches him with a videotape of him killing a man. Beatrice uses the tape to extort Victor to kill the drunk driver who caused Beatrice to have permanent scarring to her face.

Victor juggles these two problems as he kidnaps an Albanian crime family member who helped Alphonse dispose of Victor’s dead family. He uses the man to help him get both Alphonse’s men and the Albanian crime syndicate together so he can kill them all. Meanwhile, Victor begins to get to know Beatrice and develops feelings for her.

Dead Man Down is an interesting film that at times seems to have a convoluted plot, but everything is tied together in the end. Victor is able to see pass his hatred and does something good for someone who doesn’t deserve it.

 

18. Looper (2012)

Looper

Rian Johnson has established a career of making genre-bending movies that are both intelligent and exciting. Looper is a science fiction and neo-noir mashup about Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hitman who kills people that are sent to him via time travel for a crime family in the year 2044.

One day, a person is sent to Joe for kill, but it turns out to be Joe from the future played by Bruce Willis. Old Joe knocks out Joe and runs away, but chooses to meet up with his younger self to explain how he wants to prevent the death of his wife by killing the Rainmaker. The Rainmaker is a mysterious person who will bring about the destruction of all the crime families in the future. Old Joe shows Joe a map of where the Rainmaker is before a a gun battle erupts between them and the crime syndicate’s men.

Joe manages to find the location of the Rainmaker on an isolated farm where he meets Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid. Joe discovers the true power of Cid and must decide how to protect mother and child from his older self and the crime family.

Looper is a fantastic film that shows what people would do for those they love. The actual ability to prevent past actions from occurring is both a godsend and obstruction to the characters in the film.

 

17. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Tom Ford’s follow-up to A Single Man is a story within a story. Nocturnal Animals is about Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) an art gallery owner who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). Susan begins to read the novel and is drawn into its violent and dark world.

The novel is about Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal) and his family being terrorized by a gang led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Ray kidnaps Tony’s family to which Tony calls the police. The bodies of Tony’s wife and daughter are found in an abandoned building where they have been raped and murdered.

Feeling heartbroken, Tony sets out to avenge their deaths and gets into a violent confrontation with Ray. The novel ends on a bleak and nihilistic note that leaves Susan feeling shocked by it. At the end of the film, Susan sets out to reconnect with Edward.

Nocturnal Animals is both a dark neo-noir and an art film. Tom Ford’s characters have their own unique style that comes forth from the clothes they wear and the environment around them. Sinister forces always seem to be lying in await in the novel and in Susan’s life.

 

16. Prisoners (2013)

prisoners movie

Prisoners is a moody and strikingly grim film that features two of the best actors in the business. The movie is about Keller Dover, a husband and father who spends the Thanksgiving holiday with his friends and their children. When Keller and Franklin’s (Terrence Howard) daughters go missing, the two fathers frantically embark on a search to find them. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is brought onto the case and starts to look for the missing girls.

The prime suspect ends up being a mentally disabled man named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Alex appears to be suspicious both to Loki and Keller who think he kidnapped the girls. However when Alex is released from the police station, Keller attacks him and takes him to an abandoned home. Keller holds Alex prisoner and tortures him in order to get him to tell him where the missing girls are. Franklin unwittingly goes along with the torture.

When Franklin’s daughter is found, Keller hurries to the hospital to get any news on his daughter. She tells him that she heard his voice which has Keller believing that they were held nearby. Loki finds Alex in the abandoned building, as Keller confronts Alex’s aunt, Holly. This confrontation results in the a series of secrets being revealed and Keller fighting to stay alive.

Prisoners was the movie that pushed director Denis Villeneuve into the Hollywood spotlight. This exceptional film shows how far people will go to protect those they love even if it is outside of the law.

 

15. Cold in July (2014)

Best-Cold-in-July

Cold in July has Michael C. Hall moving past his Dexter fame and into noir territory. The movie is about Richard Dane (Hall) a man whose life is turned upside down when he shoots an intruder in his home. When Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) the intruders father makes a veiled threat against Richard’s son, Richard goes to the police. When the family discover that their home was broken into, they have the police protect them.

However, Ben is actually in the house and attacks one of the guards and escapes from the house. When Richard goes to the police station, he notices a wanted poster for a Frederick Russell that does not look like Ben’s son. This makes Richard think that the man he shot is someone else. Things really heat up when Ben is captured by the police and is left to die on a train tracks. Richard saves Ben from an oncoming train and the two team up to uncover what actually happened to Ben’s son.

Cold in July is a movie that shows how quickly your life can change in an instant from accidental violence. Richard is determined to understand this disruption that has taken over his once simple life.

 

 

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  • I really liked the list and there were some interesting choices: such as Too Late. Personally, I don’t agree with the rankings at all, but a good collection.
    For me, Cold In July and Nocturnal Animals had some solid qualities, but overall felt flat.
    I’m with you, and one of the people who enjoyed Lost River (Nicolas Winding Refn-lite), but don’t know if I’d include it on this list, and definitely not a high as it was.

  • Abhishek

    I don’t think a lot of movies qualify as neo noir. Broken city is not neo noir its simply shite.

  • bd

    Putting The Place Beyond the Pines in the neo-noir category is a pretty big stretch — I’m not sure if it even has any notable traits that align it with the style. It’s a great movie indeed, but it’s just a family drama, albeit an excellent and refreshing one. It’s more in line with the classic family (melo)dramas like Days of Heaven, Rebel Without a Cause, The Merchant of Four Seasons, than anything else. If Pines is neo-noir then what’s stopping Badlands or Magnolia from being such as well?

  • David Haig

    I’m thinking my perception of neo-noir is incorrect.

    • colonelkurtz

      Well, the writer is a “film noir buff” so, yeah, you obviously don’t understand neo-noir . . . along with quite a few of us, apparently. I for one didn’t know neo-noir doesn’t really have much noir to it. Just the neo.

  • Horacio Machado Flores

    Someone is full of Ryan Gosling’s c*ck.

  • colonelkurtz

    Inherent Vice is more hippie-noir, honestly, though I’d still put it above quite a few on this list.

  • far_to_the_left

    Oooh, nice list. I’ve only seen a few of these (Nocturnal Animals, Black Coal Thin Ice, Nightcrawler) so you’ve given me a lot to check out! So my Saturday binge watch will now be some Korean films along with a few noirs. Not a bad day.

  • greenperegrine

    And what about “Drive”? Ok it was released in 2011 but should be the first on the list. And “The Guest?” or “It Follows”?

  • Darren

    Extremely loose definition of what qualifies as ‘noir’

  • moss

    nice guys?seriously?